For better or worse, landlord licensing in its various forms seems a fairly straightforward issue. Councils ask for information about a landlord and his or her properties and on the basis of that decide whether to issue a licence. But what many people do not realise, including perhaps the councils themselves, is that it throws up many associated issues. One of these is data protection, i.e. what information a council is entitled to ask for, what that information can be used for, and what implications or pitfalls there might be.
A recent case has brought this into focus. Several months ago Southport-based landlord Larry Sweeney, who owns a property covered by the Liverpool city-wide licensing scheme introduced in 2015, made a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The basis of the complaint was that Liverpool City Council had breached the Data Protection Act by demanding that applicants sign a blanket authorisation authorising other statutory bodies to release information about them at the request of the Council.
Subsequently in May, the ICO decided that Liverpool City Council had failed to comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Act.
It said that the Council was not entitled to ask for authorisation to request information from third parties if, either, it cannot demonstrate that it needs that information nor did not intend to request information at the time of the application. (The implication being that if authorisation was not given the application would not be processed, although that was not actually the case.)